When a Monterey County Superior Court judge ordered PG&E to cut power to Aloha Coffee & Cafe, where owner Richard Dunnuck’s required health permit was rescinded after he repeatedly violated county health orders on mask requirements and social distancing, PG&E initially complied and cut the power.
And then the utility went to court.
In a 576-page motion for relief filed on April 16, PG&E argued that Monterey County Superior Court was an improper venue to hear the matter and order it to cut a customer’s power; the Monterey County District Attorney’s request to cut the power, PG&E contended, should have been sent to an administrative law judge before the California Public Utilities Commission. Among those 576 pages – an exhibit of the CPUC’s emergency resolutions, including one issued April 17, 2020, that ordered utilities to implement customer protections during the pandemic.
The District Attorney didn’t fight PG&E’s request, and Judge Marla Anderson vacated the March 15 shut-off order on April 21.
“Ultimately, since we got the further order locking Richard Dunnuck out of the building, we agreed we would vacate the utility shut-off order since the lockout order is still in place,” says Deputy District Attorney Emily Hickok. The issue, she adds, is now “teed up” with the CPUC for any future time it might arise.
Dunnuck has been fighting the county since December, when the Health Department revoked his health permit – a document required for a food business to operate – after finding Dunnuck was violating the pandemic health orders. Since then, his case has been in court multiple times, and on Jan. 7, Judge Lydia Villarreal ordered the business to shut down altogether until obtaining a new health permit.
Dunnuck says he views the PG&E order as a victory. “It’s a huge thing,” he says. He has also filed a motion to have his case removed from Monterey County altogether.